Though Pangina Heals may be known for her brazen, take-no-shit-take-no-prisoners style, Narkprasert wasn’t always this way. In fact, when he first encountered drag queens in West Hollywood while studying at UCLA, he wasn’t a fan.
“Now, I feel that drag queens are a tribute to the strength of women, which I find to be very liberating,” he says. “In the beginning, though, I was really taken aback. I was soft-spoken and pretty much a self-hating Asian, so I wasn’t into something that was super-confident.”
Though years of grueling dance workouts have given Narkprasert an enviable six-pack, in his university days other students bullied him for being overweight and effeminate. As an 18-year-old, he was coming to terms with his own identity and sexuality, a process that still makes him wince.
“I think the day I came out was the worst day of my life. It was also the day that my first boyfriend broke up with me and the same day I moved into UCLA,” he remembers. “Worst possible fucking day. I couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks.”
As painful as the experience was, it’s one of the many setbacks he credits for his current success. Some people may be born bold, but Narkprasert had to learn it the hard way. One of the elements of drag that initially attracted him was its power to mask those insecurities and transform the mundane into something spectacular.
“It took years for me to become this confident,” he says. “You use all those qualities where people make you feel like shit and you basically rise above that. You fake it till you make it, until one day your confidence level is where you want it to be.”
Just as it took years for Narkprasert to learn how to act like a queen, it took almost as long for him to learn how to look like one. Piece by piece, he discovered how to change his appearance through elaborate contouring and the occasional prosthetics. Morphing into Pangina Heals takes roughly two to three hours of cosmetic wizardry. With rare exceptions, he still insists on applying his own makeup and takes pleasure in the challenge of it.